Dear Chump Lady,
I’m currently struggling with how to deal with my cheating father.
It all started for me when 3 weeks before I had my daughter (now 8 months old). I discovered texts between my own husband and another woman. He lied, said it was only sexting, which turned out to be untrue. It was a full blown affair throughout my pregnancy. We are split up now, he sees the baby twice per week and I’ve finally gotten to a more peaceful place in my feelings towards him. I’m approaching “meh” steadily. Divorce papers are signed and I’m proud to be done and I keep distance and control. No kibbles. I take out my “briefcase” when I see him and it’s all business.
However, I’ve found it to be difficult to figure out how to deal with my cheating father, whose 8 1/2 year affair was uncovered by my mother via shmoopy text “I love you too” on their trip of a lifetime to Europe, to visit my mother’s relatives. It was uncovered by her a few weeks before I discovered my own ex’s “texting”. They’ve been married 40 years and my dad has always been on his own page. He’s always calling the shots and can be a big manipulative baby. My mom rolls with it. But he’s also quite creative, intelligent and fun. Total narcissist. My mom has let him have a lot of independence, which is (not so) interestingly the same pattern I emulated in my own marriage. I also married a seething narcissist, and with my daughter this sick pattern must end now that I’m aware.
Two months ago, my mom tearfully confessed she’d learned of my father’s affair before my daughter was born but had kept it quiet. They were “working on it” but when my mom confessed/described my dad’s post-discovery behavior (the typical cheater bullshit), it was clear to me that he was behaving in true cheater form. Blame game, pick me dance, just being selfish douche in general and it was easy for me to see through his games with her, thanks to your site and my own experiences with my cheating ex. I told her to change the locks and kick that cheater to the curb. She threatened him with that and he got scared. He had abandoned his fat shmoopy and the thought of losing his wife as well was too much to bear. He agreed to go to therapy and make more of an effort. My mom isn’t sure he’s going to “do his work” and look within to discover how and why he did this. I explained the obvious: Why would he want to? He gave up his cake, and now he has to look within?! Oy. Thats a lot to ask of a selfish prick.
Here’s my problem. Being around my father makes me ill. Seeing the song and dance my parents are going through is humiliating and painful. And I don’t agree with reconciliation in this instance. 8 1/2 years?!? I see my dad being super sweet to me and my mom. It sickens me. It feels like a fake and pathetic attempt to make up for 8 1/2 years of taking time away from us to poke a homely woman who was apparently dynamite in bed…gross! (p.s. The OW prize pig bitch was cheating on her dying husband with my dad.)
He cries when he thinks/talks about my situation: single mom abandoned with a baby while my ex-husband, a man I was with 10 years, lives with the OW skank with no soul. Yeah it’s pretty sad. But I’ll be okay. Because I’m rid of that lying cowardly emotional parasite. I’m 30 and have many good years to look forward to. However, my dad is still a disease permeating through my family. I have no respect for him and have told him to his face that he’s a fraud. He’s built his career on providing therapy and working in rape crisis prevention/supporting abused women and I told him he’s a hypocrite who has been abusing his wife for 8 1/2 years. He’s a self serving asshole. He risked our family for a whore on the side. Just like my stupid ex. They are such losers!
Okay so my dilemma is: I want to shut him out. But I’m torn. I’ve lost so much already. My mom has too. The holidays are rough. Father’s Day was especially painful. I don’t want to exclude myself from my mom’s life. She’s choosing to try to see if it’s salvageable. She’s almost 70 and I don’t think she’s ready to do old age without a partner. There are some good aspects of my parent’s relationship. But the problem remains that my father is straight up, a selfish and despicable liar who didn’t just cheat on my mom, he cheated on all of us. I feel like my mom is sort of still wallowing in denial. He’s a terrible person. Accept it! I hate being around them together. But my ulterior motive is I need help with the baby and I do want her to have her grandparents in her life. There’s just so much loss already.
I’m at the point where I want to go no contact with him. But I feel like that’s hurting my mom and not supporting her. Not sure how to navigate this in a way that feels right.
Cheated x 2
Dear Cheated x 2,
When life is a great big clusterfuck, I ask myself — what can I control here? And the answer is always — myself. That’s about it. I think you have navigated this nightmare brilliantly — with a newborn you divorced your ex. (God there are a LOT of you here at Chump Lady. Can everyone just give these new mothers a BIG COLLECTIVE HUG?) You advocated for yourself. You were able to lawyer up and divorce that asshole. Well done on the decisiveness.
Your problem is, you can’t divorce your father. He remains… your father. You can go NC, but no one gets an ex-father. You just get an estranged father. And he’s rather a package deal with your mother, still in high chump mode. But more on that in a minute.
The problem with wing nuts is that once unmasked, they never sparkle brightly again. They know it. You know it. Sure, they might try and put the mask on again, like your father is doing now being “sweet” to you and mom, but your gut knows — he’s a fake.
You’re an authentic person who wants to deal with him authentically — so you call him out on his shit — YOU’RE A FRAUD! But Cx2, sweetheart, you may as well try and shame a doorpost. He senses the lack of kibbles, but that’s about it. He’s not going to do introspection for you, or your mother. The only chance of that happening (slim, slim chance) is if you were to impose meaningful consequences — you with NC, but mostly mom with divorcing his ass. But even then my guess is he’d spin it that he’s the Poor Sad Sausage and Victim of Your Warrantless Bad Opinion. So that leaves you with one option if he remains in your life — dealing with him inauthentically. Eating the shit sandwich and mirroring his phoniness with a trough of your own phoniness.
Unfortunately, there are many situations like this in our life. You’re just unlucky enough that this person is a parent. But we’ve all got co-workers, in-laws, siblings, or neighbors who make our skin crawl. People we have to play nice and exchange social pleasantries with. But goddamn it we know too much — we know where the skeletons are buried. And we HATE who we are when we’re around these freaks. So we avoid them. Make excuses to duck out early, not get assigned a committee with them, or pick secret Santas.
It exacts quite a price to be around these people, because unless you’re disordered too or can say “Bless your heart!” with a straight face (I cannot) — you’ll find every encounter incredibly draining.
So that’s my advice to you — minimize contact until you can find the fortitude to do serious phoniness in their presence.
Here’s another thing you don’t control, sadly — your mother’s chumpiness.
You and your kick ass attitude and the way you’ve modeled self respect to your daughter are seriously threatening to the both of them.
He cries when he thinks/talks about my situation: single mom abandoned with a baby
Bullshit. He’s not crying for you — he’s crying for HIMSELF. Your situation — where you threw the bum out and imposed consequences — terrifies him. Of COURSE he’s going to make you out to be “tragic” — because that’s an implied threat to your mother. Oh! Poor Cx2! Abandoned! Alone! Unloved! (SUBTEXT: Boy, you’d sure hate to end up like HER.)
You know what a loving father says when a man cheats on his daughter? — “Where did I put the shotgun?”
He should be proud of you the way you threw the bum out. But he can’t be because he’s a bum too.
Here’s what seriously creeps me out about your dad:
He’s built his career on providing therapy and working in rape crisis prevention/supporting abused women and I told him he’s a hypocrite who has been abusing his wife for 8 1/2 years.
Exactly — he’s an abuser. Not that it really matters, but 8.5 years THAT YOU KNOW OF. That’s a freaking long time to carry on a double life. Who DOES that? Predators do that. I’m sorry, but I don’t know nice people who choose professions to “help” the very people they’re secretly hurting. Jerry Sandusky springs to mind.
No wonder you don’t feel safe around this person!
The best way I could spin that is he’s just exceptionally dim, and self-centered, that he couldn’t see that he’s the LAST person to offer trauma advice to abused women. He’s been humiliating your mother for years with a long-term affair. I know narcissists are dim and self centered but it’s just too much of a coincidence that he “helps” fragile women. Isn’t it nice when women are fragile? Your mom putting up with his crazy and his cheating. How will she ever manage without HIM? She’s a good chump. And you there, so TRAGIC and sad and ABANDONED (next time he says that, say “No, I left his ass.”) And the Other Woman, so ugly and yet so fuckable. What’s the common denominator? His centrality. He’s so powerful and you’re all so sad and broken and in need of him.
Yeah, I wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole on Father’s Day either.
If it were me, I’d take mom out separately and hum Beyonce tunes every time she mentions dear old dad. Live by example. You’re doing awesome. Maybe she’ll catch some of that. I sure hope so.